As a former business teacher, I easily recall teaching a lesson titled, The Four C’s of Credit. That particular lesson is so memorable because I remember being schooled in “The Four C’s of Diamonds” when shopping for an engagement ring for my wife just a few years prior. Both “Four C’s” offered a simple and easy way to understand the quality of the subject at hand. For Credit, the Four C’s are Capacity, Credit History, Capital, and Collateral. Additionally, many of us are familiar with the Four C’s of Education which are Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.
Now as a technology coach and consultant I advise schools to evaluate technology by another “4 C’s” model as seen below:
Cost-effective– this has more to do with than just how much an individual teacher or their school can afford. The question every teacher and school is responsible for answering is whether or not a mobile application is intended to be used at home. If not, why not? I believe every parent should receive a list of apps used in the classroom so parents can download them and provide additional support at home. Also, that same child may have a sibling that would benefit from using the app if in another class, or rising to that grade-level the following year. Therefore, a school should be acutely aware of the demographics they serve and either purposely choose apps that are affordable for the families, or come up with a solution to meet those family needs.
Cross-platform- plain and simple, if your school is thinking about a single platform, specifically iOS or Android, you’re doing it wrong! Even if your school has bought iPads or Android tablets for every single student, and you have a true 1:1 take home initiative, you still cannot forget other factors concerning your school and community. The fact is that your students will not stay in your building indefinitely- at least I hope not!
They eventually go home, where their parents may have a different device, visit friends and family that have a diversity of devices and those same apps can be recommended to others, or not, based on affordability and accessibility. That parent may want to download the app to vet it or provide supplemental opportunities for their child, and they should be able to do so! If your school has mixed devices or is investigating going BYOD, then choosing apps that are cross-platform will make that experience far less painful.
If deciding to choose an app for the classroom I first see if it is available for free or low price for both Android and iOS. For instance, I prefer Lensoo Create or Explain Everything to other voice-over whiteboard apps because it is available on both iPads and Android. If unsure or need to settle on an app for one and need to find an alternative for another, I use alternativeto.net in order to create a list of other platform options list for parents.
Cloud-based- Maybe you don’t have mobile devices, but you have laptops. Whether or not your school uses Macs, PCs, Linux or Chromebooks, an easy decision to make sure you make sure you choose an app is cross-platform is to consider if it is cloud-based. There are a few apps, such as Soundtrap, WeVideo, Pic Monkey, Aww App, and many more that I would highly recommend because they can be used online. These sort of apps are the best for schools with mixed devices, and make it much easier for students to continue work at home. I will also add that nothing is more exciting to me than to find out that an app is not only available online but also available as a mobile app, such as Desygner which is a graphics editor that is very similar to Canva. This is incredibly important if your school has a mix of iPads, Chromebooks, or Android tablets, these apps will work no matter which device the student is using!
Collaborative- Next are the rarest of all, and these are apps that allow for two or more students to work together in real time, in the same virtual space. Gold apps are free or extremely inexpensive, accessible on the web, on any browser, dual platform, but also collaborative, and this is where Google Apps really stands out. It should not be taken for granted that many of the core GSuite apps including Docs, Sheets, and Slides meet these rare criteria. Every one of them is a precious gem that schools should value.
As it pertains to app selection, in most cases, a Silver rating is sufficient to meet my students’ needs, but I confess to being a sucker for apps that have a few more standout qualities. If an app is not available cross-platform but you would really like it to be, one thing I do is write the app developers directly and make a request. You can do the same at bit.ly/thinkopenletter. Do you have any Silver or Gold or apps you would recommend? Please share with tag #thinkopen!